Antisocial Networking, Foursquare & the Binary Filter

Fellow Houston tech blogger and Houston Chronicle writer Dwight Silverman told me today that he was unfollowing me on Twitter, because he finds my Foursquare Twitter updates irritating.

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No worries, Dwight.  But as a student of human nature and social networking, I thought about this some while I was having lunch (after checking in on Foursquare of course).

First, some stats to put this in perspective.  I have checked-in with Foursquare exactly 35 times since February 12, when I joined.  That’s slightly more than once every other day.  I have become Mayor of 5 locations, for a total of 40 Foursquare-related Tweets.  Of my 2,871 Tweets, approximately one percent have been Foursquare related.  So while there are probably plenty of reasons not to follow me on Twitter, Foursquare is not one of them.

In fact, I think Foursquare is social networking at its finest.  Unlike Twitter, where people mostly toss links at each other, Foursquare actually provides the opportunity to truly network- as in see people in real life.  When you check-in at a location, you can see who is already there.  If that’s not networking, and this is, then I am seriously confused.

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I may be kicked off this list if I mention that
I’m on my way to the Galleria Apple Store.

Other than a passing thought that maybe the relatively few Houston tech bloggers with any sort of web presence ought to stick together, I don’t care whether Dwight, or anyone else, follows me or not.  By no means am I a committed Twitter writer or reader.  I’m not offended- just curious. 

I also understand the need to manage and filter your content stream.  Farmville single-handedly caused me to become an expert on Facebook filters (Facebook, unlike Twitter, is very interactive, once you filter out all the noise).

The obvious lesson here is that Twitter needs to implement key word filters.  I’m sure it will at some point.  In the meantime, we all develop our own binary filters, in or out.  I certainly don’t understand Dwight’s filter for Twitter streams, but that’s OK.  The great thing about these services is that we can all create our own recipe for consumption.  Dwight has his, I have mine, you have yours.

It’s all cool.

Not nearly as cool as becoming the Mayor of Skeeter’s, though.

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Now I’m off to the Apple Store.  I need to buy a cable, and see if I can oust the Mayor.

Helpful Links:
Unfollow me on Twitter here (I can’t figure out a direct unfollow link).
Add me on Foursquare

10 thoughts on “Antisocial Networking, Foursquare & the Binary Filter

  1. Kent,No, I won't kick you off the Techazoid list … you ARE a Techazoid, after all.You're right, my unfollowing you is strictly a matter of filtering. I follow about 1,000 people, and that's a lot. I actually use my main “friends” feed – it's not just a firehose from which I sort into other streams. I have to look at the amount of signal-to-noise there, and your noise ratio was just too high. You say “Of my 2,871 Tweets, approximately one percent have been Foursquare related.” Of course, you haven't been using Foursquare from the beginning of your time on Twitter; try working out a ratio since you started using it. I suspect it may be a lot higher than 1 percent.You also say “By no means am I a committed Twitter writer or reader.” And that shows in your stream. Most of its recent content is automated tweets from your blog, links you “toss” at your followers, and Foursquare checkins. You've been tweeting about sports, and the iPad recently. You interact occasionally, but not much – I don't see a lot of @s in your recent stream.Of course, we're all guilty of putting Twitter on autopilot – I do it, too, with automated posts from my blog & column, and retweets of news I find during the day. One of my big problems with Foursquare and other auto-notifications posted to Twitter is that they lack context and value. I like what you write about tech and social networking, but I could care less if you're at the YMCA, or just became the mayor of a Chinese restaurant. I suspect that's true for most of your followers, as well. I'm on Foursquare, too, but I don't inflict those check-ins or mayoral oustings on others. Within the context of Foursquare, those notifications are fine – outside of that context… well, they don't have any context, and they're just noise. You're right, Twitter needs filters. But right now, it doesn't have any. Until that day comes, how about sparing your followers and keep the check-ins and badge unlocks within Foursquare, where they belong?By the way, there is some hope … Twitstat, a great Web-based Twitter front-end, lets you filter out Foursquare and other annoying auto-tweets. Hopefully, other app developers will do the same … maybe even Twitter will, now that it's gobbled up Tweetie.

  2. I appreciate the comment. I'll respond to a few of your points.Yes, since I've been on Foursquare, it's more than 1%. It's a little more that one every other day. Look at the Techazoid list (or any list), and you'll see at least that much clutter from lots of folks. I don't think Foursquare is clutter, but even if I did, it's not overwhelming. Compare Foursquare to the infestation of Farmville posts on Facebook.Yes, I do toss links at my Twitter feed. But other than the ones to my blog posts (which are done via a WP plugin), every single one of them is hand-picked by me, in real time, as I read content in Google Reader. Compare this to people who bombard their feed with automated links via Twitterfeed, etc. If I provide any value to Twitter, it's those links.You are also correct that I don't do a lot of @posts. I have found that most of them go into the ether, never to be responded to. I do try to respond to @posts directed at me, and while I think there is a marginal utility to Retweets, I do Retweet things I find exceptionally interesting.At the end of the day, I think it comes down to the fact that you and I very much disagree about two things:1. I do care if someone is at the YMCA or a particular restaurant. Because I might be there too, or might go there. I think the value of saying hello to someone in the real world is geometrically higher than being on Twitter at the same time they are. As an aside, there have been 5 Foursquare posts in my stream that were not location check-ins. Other than Mayorships, I disabled the the non-location ones.2. I do not think the signal to noise ratio in Twitter, particularly with anywhere close to 1000 follows can be cleaned up to the point where one Foursquare post every other day is that much of a buzzkill. I just don't think Twitter is NPR, and I don't think you can make it such. Again, though, it is perfectly within your rights to try.I'm not going to spare my followers these check-ins, because if my followers think this amount of location Tweets are that big of a drag, they should unfollow me just to make sure we never meet. Because we probably wouldn't have much in common.We do agree on filters. Filters are the only thing that makes Facebook tolerable for me. With them, I like the level of interaction with regular people. Without them, it would be what you think my Twitter feed is.Good luck, and, again, thanks for the comment.

  3. I agree with Dwight: Foursquare can be annoying without context or value. If someone's going to check in and announce to their followers exactly where they are, they may as well share why they're there or provide an interesting observation about the venue/event. Otherwise, people should skip the Foursquare check-in, and, instead, tag the bathroom wall with a sharpie to show they've been there. It would last longer, at least. And, it would prove they've actually been to the place!

  4. I agree that a full-on review and notes about the location would be better, though it's hard to do all of that in 140 characters. What I am taking issue with is the idea that Foursquare check-ins provide less “value” than the rest of the typical content on Twitter. If I announce that I am having lunch at Star Pizza, isn't the opportunity for someone to see that, come over and say hello at least as valuable as the 100th retweet of some TechCrunch article, etc.?I just find it very anti-social to embrace Twitter in general (warts and all) and then reject the idea that location announcements have social value.

  5. It doesn't have to be that complicated, and 140 characters *can* be enough to provide more value than “I'm here.” For instance:Helping @Noahs_Kitchen win a @fordfiesta at @SaintArnold – Then #superswarm at #fiestahouston 811 Richmond til 8p http://4sq.com/8KEjkl (posted 3:27 PM Apr 11th via foursquare)…That fit in one check-in, and let people know people we were at the Saint Arnold Brewery supporting Team Houston and the Ford Fiesta Movement in a push to win a Ford Fiesta for the non-profit Noah's Kitchen. How can people possibly derive all that from less than 140 characters? By clicking on all the hashtags and @handles that automatically become links to more information on Twitter and in Foursquare.No one's embracing one over the other. I'm simply saying that if you use social networks, use them to *be social.* Share content. Invite conversation. Saying “I'm here!” constantly without context or invitation to further engagement is not social. It's one-way broadcasting…and it's not even broadcasting news.

  6. I agree with Dwight: Foursquare can be annoying without context or value. If someone's going to check in and announce to their followers exactly where they are, they may as well share why they're there or provide an interesting observation about the venue/event. Otherwise, people should skip the Foursquare check-in, and, instead, tag the bathroom wall with a sharpie to show they've been there. It would last longer, at least. And, it would prove they've actually been to the place!

  7. I agree that a full-on review and notes about the location would be better, though it's hard to do all of that in 140 characters. What I am taking issue with is the idea that Foursquare check-ins provide less “value” than the rest of the typical content on Twitter. If I announce that I am having lunch at Star Pizza, isn't the opportunity for someone to see that, come over and say hello at least as valuable as the 100th retweet of some TechCrunch article, etc.?I just find it very anti-social to embrace Twitter in general (warts and all) and then reject the idea that location announcements have social value.

  8. It doesn't have to be that complicated, and 140 characters *can* be enough to provide more value than “I'm here.” For instance:Helping @Noahs_Kitchen win a @fordfiesta at @SaintArnold – Then #superswarm at #fiestahouston 811 Richmond til 8p http://4sq.com/8KEjkl (posted 3:27 PM Apr 11th via foursquare)…That fit in one check-in, and let people know people we were at the Saint Arnold Brewery supporting Team Houston and the Ford Fiesta Movement in a push to win a Ford Fiesta for the non-profit Noah's Kitchen. How can people possibly derive all that from less than 140 characters? By clicking on all the hashtags and @handles that automatically become links to more information on Twitter and in Foursquare.No one's embracing one over the other. I'm simply saying that if you use social networks, use them to *be social.* Share content. Invite conversation. Saying “I'm here!” constantly without context or invitation to further engagement is not social. It's one-way broadcasting…and it's not even broadcasting news.

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